Into the Foolishness of God

The power of coming into agreement with God's Word and will

A quick note on the heart of this post; we all have our proverbial “hills” we are willing to die on. This new-wave feminism that holds such deep contempt for the sanctity of life is mine. I don’t write this to chastise or condemn. I write it because underneath all the fancy arguments and hashtags, we are faced with a single question: who and what do we choose? Life? Or death? Self? Or others? Forty years ago a young woman I never knew chose life over death, temporary affliction over instant gratification, and I am forever grateful. Those women are the true feminists in my eyes, they understood the easy way isn’t always the right way.

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As I sat today checking my phone in a crowded indoor rec center full of screaming kids, I was reminded in no uncertain terms, that outside these little walls of suburbia a massive march was occurring, many marches in fact, embracing and promoting an agenda that claims to be a needed step forward for me as a woman and citizen of this country. I am reminded on my local news’ Facebook feed via live streaming and no less than four informational updates how I can join, support, or better understand what this march is about.

There was another march on Friday, going on it’s 45th year, that I heard much less about. In fact, my same local news site that is still at this moment re-running the live stream of today’s march, skipped covering the Friday march completely. I waited and scrolled, but nothing. You see, this march, the March For Life, had a much smaller manifesto, their goal being “a place to testify to the beauty of life and the dignity of each human person.”

It’s no coincidence or surprise these gatherings are held within a day of one another. It’s also not very surprising the way our media embraces one while shutting the other out. We can argue the points and counterpoints all day long, but I just want to pose the question… why? Why is vulgarity praised and morality mocked? Why is a message that claims to be “pro-women” so incredibly divisive, fragmented, and anti-woman?

The official guide to the Women’s March is no less than six pages long, detailing a vast array of demands and grievances in which it is declared that all women:

• “deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against [their] bodies…”

• “have access to non-judgmental, comprehensive healthcare with no exceptions or limitations…”

Problematic perhaps? By “non-judgmental” healthcare what do they mean exactly? Abortion on demand? It sadly already exists. Demanding a judgment-free environment is a fascinating little addition. You are free to get your abortion, but how exactly do you require to never be judged on that action? I think all Planned Parenthood facilities are all too happy not to judge. “No exceptions or limitations.” What does that mean? This is human nature at its absolute worst. Free to do what we want without guilt, conscience or consequence. This march is not about equality in any way. This is about hyping a self-serving, God-hating, selfish ideology.

One march wants us to put ourselves first and the other says not so fast… The “me first” women are too busy fighting imagined outrages to see their actual fulfillment and worth lies in who they were created to be as women. I’m not saying we all have to be housewives. I’m saying we bear the very image of God and there is no shame in that. Make and female were created with equal worth, and we don’t accumulate more worth by destroying another life or degrading our own.

Christ calls us to surrender our lives in order to find our freedom and purpose (Matthew 16:24). He treated women with spectacular dignity. He acknowledged them (see here), healed them (see here) and He also held them accountable for their sinful actions (here) and lovingly directed them out of it. Sin has consequences, but Jesus gives us a way out of our sin.

Feminism, in its current state is poison to a woman’s soul. You can’t self-promote your way to happiness or equality. Aborting a life doesn’t make you more powerful or free. Life may be unfair, choices may be painful, but this “no exceptions, judgments or limitations” ideology is going to burn the whole house down. Men and women are created to be in unity, not split into eighty-nine self interest groups competing for special rights.

We are not created to obsess over where we are on the vast matrix of oppression. Spiraling outrage is not progress, it’s a descent into total chaos. Real feminists embrace what it means to be a woman. They understand their actions have consequences. They look to the Creator of life for validation and worth.

Life is life, it is valuable from beginning to end. If this is a new concept to you, I would say go to His Word. See what Jesus said to women. Read how He knew us before we were ever born (here) how we are created male and female all in His image (here).

If you want to be pro-woman, be pro-life. I don’t mean that simply the anti-abortion sense, I mean choose life as Christ offers it. Freedom from sin, guilt and shame. Confront evil when necessary, and dust off your feet and move on when you need to, because as we see, some are determined to go their own way.

Choose life. Value life. In every way, so that we don’t end up as CS Lewis warned, like this:

“We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”

#CSLewis

“Are we really this empty?”

I find myself asking that question a lot lately. Check the trending headlines or your social media and you’ll see it: we are a culture grasping at straws for the next thing to come and soothe us, define us, entertain us or empower us.

If you aren’t “hustling”, you’re not getting anywhere. If you aren’t first, you’re last (I actually saw a mom post those words to Instagram when her son placed first in a ski race my son was in). If you don’t have 300 likes you might as well delete that post (again, true story). Life has us scrambling, and the selfish idols we pile up in the chase have us numbing ourselves with anything we can dig up.

America is seeing there are consequences to the ‘have it your way’ lifestyle and sadly we are still looking to ourselves to be the solution.

Here’s an excerpt from the invite page of well-known feminist women’s tour:

“The world needs a love story…. Our country is inside a divisive, heart-stopping moment. Hearts are broken and hope is fading. We’re all waiting for the heroes to show up. This fall, in ten cities across the nation, we will rise up, join together, and boldly proclaim our collective intention to lead our lives, families, communities, and nation with love. Together, we will heal hearts. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, we are the ones who will show up and make it right.” Together Tour 2018

She’s right about one thing, the world does need a love story. The rest of it can be scrapped though, because “we”are never going to be the answer to our own problems. As awesome as it’s sounds to just “show up”, it doesn’t get to the heart of our problem. No amount of conjuring up love, bravery or ‘collective intentions’ is ever going to heal what is happening on the inside. “We” are certainly not the ones we’ve been waiting for because “we” are all in the same sinking boat. You cannot call yourself a ‘truth teller’ and preach that truth is all subjective. You cannot thirst for power but thrive on being a victim. Yes, hope is fading, and it’s fading because we have totally disconnected from THE love story we are already a part of. Digging deeper into our own heads for a solution is a walk down a dead end street.

We’ve woven for ourselves a tangled web by continually choosing idols over God thinking they can offer us something new. As Solomon wisely said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “There is nothing new under the sun…”

We see that as a depressing idea, but I don’t think it’s meant to be that at all. In fact, the more I see our culture striving for new distractions, the more I want to get back to that truth. (Can we insert right here the fact that teenagers are eating, EATING Tide Pods as a part of a social media challenge?!) I’m with Solomon. Please stop the madness.

So we are empty, bored, searching for meaning and amusement at the same time. We are both distorted by our sin and distracted by it. The imprints of Adam are with us still, and they creep up on us in ways we never expect. As much as we’d like to believe we can be the solution, we are not.

In our desperation to be original, we all have become ordinary. In our quest to know everything, we know nothing of truth.

And so I end with some simple, unoriginal, bare bones wisdom from the apostle Paul, who I think understood the need to keep it real better than any of us:

“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14

We want so badly to “make a good showing” as Paul says in the previous verse, but that isn’t what disciples of Jesus are called to do. Boasting in our abilities gets us nowhere fast. I take that back, it gets you the wrong kind of attention which only leads to more self dependency. Paul was right, God forbid we boast in anything but Jesus. He doesn’t need our hot new takes on what He said, He asks us to go and tell people the good news as He said it.

Paul told the Corinthians he came to them not with wise and persuasive words, but with trembling because the message of Christ relies solely on Gods power to change hearts (1 Corinthians 2:3).

Let’s stop looking to be entertained and empowered by things that leave us empty. I pray that the pendulum swings back soon, that people would see through the empty platitudes and fancy self-help conferences that point us to ourselves. You know what people who come out of that stuff need the most? Simple, unaltered words of truth, as found in Gods word.

Oh that Jesus would radiate out of us not because of who we are but because of who He is! That we who carry His message would tremble at how deep both sin and grace are in our lives. How freeing it would be to be un-original in our presentation of the truth. We proclaim the good news where it hurts the most, where it laser cuts between joints and marrow, people will be angry or accepting of it, the results are not up to us. We are disciples and presenters of the Word – may we be more excited to share His truth and join in His great love story than we are content to stay in our own.

There’s a really thoughtful article over at Sheologians this week discussing, among other things, how we use words and the importance of speaking Biblically. What does it mean to use Biblically sound words? Why is this important? We aren’t talking about not cursing here, it’s something fairly sneaky that’s happening, and it’s incredibly important.

“And so, when you peruse Evangelical Facebook and Evangelical Twitter and Large-Evangelical-Blog-Sites, often what you come across is a euphemism from the pit of hell to describe the state of sin we all experience. The Old Testament describes sinners as having the poison of asps under their lips and having throats that are like open tombs (try imagining the smell of that real quick) and here we are like, “I’m just so messy, teehee! Join me in acknowledging your messiness! Isn’t it great? Let’s all be messy together!”

The ones preaching the gloriousness of sharing in each other’s “messiness” are the ones that have given up the ghost. They aren’t the ones storming the tower. They’re the ones smoking a cigarette in the trench because what’s the big deal about taking the tower, anyway?

The word “sinner” has lost its place in decent conversation and it’s one of the most indecent things I have seen preachers, teachers, and bloggers do as of late. Language matters and here’s why. You do not have to repent from being messy. If you are messy, hire a maid, buy a vacuum, take a course on how to be organized. Or don’t. Not all messes warrant spiritual concern. However, if you are a sinner, there is nothing you can do but find a savior. When you give up sin for a euphemism, you lose the need for repentance. You lose the need for a savior. You lose categories that the world wants us to lose—like God’s holiness, justice, and wrath. Why on Earth would God send a messy person to Hell, anyway?

I mean, if being blunt about your messy means you are just full of moxie, it’s actually kinda charming, ain’t it?”

Did you catch the part about giving up? It’s a lost cause, so if you can’t beat em, join em. Somewhere along the line, we’ve redefined some things, and a lot of really beautiful souls are just sitting down in the trenches smoking a cigarette because they’ve decided storming the tower just isn’t worth it. I say it is.

As sin morphs into ‘brokenness’ and ‘brokenness’ becomes normal, we begin to celebrate sin. The important thing is that we are authentic, right? Here’s the thing; my authentic self that everyone wants me to just embrace and present to the world isn’t my best self. (Did I just touch on a Joel Osteen or Oprah book? I think I did…) The flesh is selfish and the heart deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and embracing it leads me away from repenting from it. I am, by nature, say it with me here… a sinner. So are you. It’s a heart condition before it’s a physical act, and we are born all with it. Our wishy-washy culture of comparison has convinced us otherwise. We aren’t as bad as so-and-so. The message that unrepentant sin and holiness can ‘coexist’ makes a mockery out of everything Jesus finished for us on the cross.

Here’s an example I see at least weekly:

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Do you see the problem? It’s not you! It’s the rest of the world! Well, that means somewhere, someone has made it messy. Are there good people and bad people? Of course. To believe that we share no part in it is absurd. The entirety of creation is marred by sin, it’s in every crack and crevice, and it certainly is in every human heart. The world is a mess because we made it a mess. Collectively. Through our… say it again… sin. To deny that we play a role in it is to deny we need Jesus. Messes need a maid, sinners need a Savior. Otherwise, as the author of the article points out, God is in the business of sending ‘messy’ people to hell for no reason.

Words matter. People who constantly speak of ‘brokenness’ and never of ‘sin’ are missing something very big: we aren’t to wallow in it, we are to be free of it. Big difference.

Telling people they’re ok as long as they’re authentically messed up isn’t helpful. As ‘authentic’ as my sin is, I still don’t want it tagging along in my life. I want to be rid of it. This would be a different story if Jesus didn’t already break those chains, but He did! Jesus is Redeemer, Healer, Savior, and Holy. None of those things are necessary for someone who is simply too sassy or too messy. He doesn’t glue a broken person back together, He completely replaces whats broken with something entirely new.

Words matter.

All is not lost. Not even close. Take a peek inside His Word and you’ll see He’s all about making us whole, abundant and dare I say it, not at all messy. Don’t confuse this with perfection or never having problems, God never demanded that from us in the first place, we humans made that one up. He invites us to join Him in this messy, I mean sinful world regardless. Give em an inch and they’ll take a mile. We can’t allow God’s life-saving truths to be sliced and diced down into a nice philosophy we no longer recognize. Christianity is bold and effective on it’s own. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t change with culture, and we can’t afford to embrace teachers who say it’s ‘brave’ to call sin by any other name.

The words we use matter because they become the messages that we live by. Speaking Biblically matters. I don’t want to be the surrendered soul in the trench who gave up too much ground. I want to stay in the fight, and in today’s world the battle starts with our willingness to be upfront and honest with the words we speak.

Happy 2018! I think I’m not supposed to say this, but I don’t mind one bit the end of the holidays. I love Christmas, but there’s something about January. December is a month filled with family, friends, food, activity and just… a lot. I love decorating the house, and I equally love un-decking all the halls. There’s just a fantastic feeling about hitting the reset button in different areas of life.

Like most people, our family has goals for 2018, some big, some small, some practical and others lofty. As we were talking with our kids about the specifics of them yesterday, two words popped in my head: big picture.

We were already getting lost in the details. The how, when, where questions were starting to strangle out something more important: none of this matters if our hearts are hard, if our bodies are exhausted, if our minds are full of junky thoughts, and if we are just on our own private path to fulfillment.

Before all the good things, we need the God things. I sat down with my Bible and paper and asked God to show me what that might look like.

The last thing I want to convey is a sense of legalism, so when I talk with my kids about spending time every day in the word, I want to be careful about not turning it into a chore. I want them to see it as life-giving, not draining. I read a funny meme on New Year’s Day:

Hooray for new starts, but what are we after? Reading through the Bible in a year? That’s good. Is it life-giving and does it draw us closer to Jesus? Excellent. Is it something we do out of obligation? That’s something else.

How do we engage with Jesus without becoming self-reliant? How do we guide those we love into enjoying time with Him?

I have no less than four amazing books I want to go through with my boys right now. I want to impart truth to them so they can navigate this coming year hand in hand with Jesus. We need more than instructions though, more than a regimen.

Godliness before goodness. Foundations before buildings. We have a responsibility to pursue holiness. Not in our own strength, not by reading a chapter a day, but by surrendering to Him and seeking His wisdom.

Proverbs tells us it’s everywhere – it cries out from every corner if we have ears to hear it (1:21). Even better, if we treat it as precious treasure, we find the knowledge of God Himself (2:4).

So my “big picture” is this: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord.” Zechariah 4:6

Motivated by Christ, feeding on His word, shaping our little worlds instead of being shaped by them. Engaged in a broken culture not because we are brave and fearless, but because we serve a God who is.

Lord show us how freeing it is to seek You above results, to listen to You over the all the noise. Let us stay where You want us to and move when you tell us to.

“Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” TS Eliot

The Information Age. It’s our blessing and our curse. I often joke I was born into the wrong era because I don’t always love everything that comes with technology, but feeding at the buffet of the inter webs is a part of life as we know it now. Whether we realize it or not, our minds are soaking in ideas that change the way we think. Given enough time, these little ideas can change the way we act as well. I’m always struck by those memes that pop up everywhere that sound nice but send off alarms in my head. Sometimes I think I overreact to this stuff, but I fear bad ideas start small and grow into destructive beliefs. Exhibit A:

Ummm… ok. Like, on a silver platter? I think I deserve a Friday off of work once in awhile, but my coworkers might disagree. I know I deserve some help with the towering laundry piles in the living room, but my kids may not agree. You deserve to be (insert happy adjective), you are entitled to (insert benefits). Actually, Biblically speaking, we don’t deserve much. The “universe” can’t serve us up anything. Now, if you want to talk about what we deserved vs. what we got, look to Jesus first. He stepped in to take what we deserved, and we enjoy life and freedom because of it. This idea that things will just shake out because of karma or good intentions is not only dumb, but dangerous. What happens when they don’t? We blame God. All along, He was calling us to Himself, to know His will, His truth, and we looked past Him. We can’t have one hand reached out to Jesus and the other to the vacant “universe” and expect to have clarity. We can’t just absorb things that sound nice without thinking how they shape the way we see God.

Exhibit B:

There’s a lot happening here. Some may read it and have no feeling, some may think it’s a bit quirky. Others have a BS detector that is having a meltdown. I’m not sure what it means to “steward your destiny” exactly, but I do know we are called to be good stewards of “the grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). That means all of Him, truth included. I’m not sure about incubating strategies, but I know better than to have someone tell me when to speak or when to be quiet. This isn’t Biblical. People are preying on our inability (or unwillingness) to seek out answers from the Word for ourselves. When we share Jesus, we point to Him. We don’t point people back to ourselves. When someone starts focusing more on a method than the person of Christ, we need to take heed.

Again…

Please standby… I’ve got to go to lunch and run some errands, but come back to instagram later for this crucial message! I joke, but this is the kind of stuff we scroll past, hit ‘like’ on, say amen to and soak in. Pretty little lies about God creeping into our heads that affect how we think about Him. Read enough of this stuff and you end up with complication where there should be simplicity, and tangled lies where there should be freeing truth.

Paul dealt with this in his letter to the Galatians when he spoke of “false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” (Galatians 2:4-5)

I’m struck by that phrase, people coming to ‘spy out our liberty’. They are coming to take it away, to put us back in bondage. Whether it’s on purpose or not doesn’t really matter, a false gospel leads us back to chains. Paul tells them of people who are parading around preaching a different gospel, a distorted gospel (Galatians 1:7). He warns that even if it were an “angel from heaven” promoting these things (v. 8) we should dismiss it. That’s the problem. These things present themselves as attractive, relevant, and sensible. They are heavy on human initiative and performance and light on Jesus.

We’re being spoon-fed information on a minute to minute basis, but we’re losing our ability to sort through it. The “universe” is throwing out garbage and we are piling it up like a trash receptacle. Paul prayed that we would have both knowledge and discernment (Philippians1:9) and that we would be able to approve what is worthy of our time and hearts.

It’s almost Christmas, a good time to take a step back perhaps from the noise and recalibrate ourselves. Take a little fast perhaps from the information onslaught and enjoy some simple silence with Jesus. Clear out the cobwebs a bit of the accumulated stuff and make room for the Christ child. Find the life you may have lost in all the “living” these past few weeks. Ask for wisdom instead of information. Don’t allow anyone to come in and spy out your freedom, it’s a precious gift that came at a great price. We owe it to ourselves and each other to not fall for the pretty little lies that surround us at every turn.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy this season, make some time for silence, and enjoy the gift that has been so freely given to us all.

“Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” John 4:15

A friend sent me a book last week called Sipping Saltwater by Steve Hoppe, and I wanted to share a bit about it on here today. The title intrigued me a lot. If you’ve been to the ocean, you know what a mouthful of saltwater tastes like and you certainly wouldn’t want to sit and drink any of it.

We’ve all heard tales of shipwrecked sailors clinging to life because they don’t have fresh water. We all know what it’s like to be thirsty on a hot day. Imagine being completely surrounded by cool water but unable to drink it.

What happens when a thirsty person drinks saltwater? It basically shrivels you up from the inside. Lovely thought, no? It might satisfy for a moment, but in the end it will dehydrate and even kill you.

The premise of the book is that we are all in some way or another sitting around “sipping saltwater” by thirsting after things that 1) don’t satisfy and 2) will eventually do us great harm. We sip, we drink, we chug, we get addicted to things that dry us out and leave us thirstier than before. We shop. We drink. Eat. Exercise. Work. Obsess. Worry. You name it.

Too much social media? Saltwater.

An overly packed family schedule? Saltwater.

Knowing more about Hollywood stars than the people under your own roof? Saltwater.

Good things turn into harmful idols because we turn to the thing itself to take away that thirst.

The good news? The Bible has lots of things to say about this dilemma of ours.

Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

Isaiah 55:1-2

We are spending money on what does not satisfy. Isaiah is warning the people to quit wasting their time. Interesting that no matter the time in history, this is a problem for us. I wonder what people in Biblical times thirsted after? If they had this problem, how much more do we need to pay attention? Are times are unique, but he condition of our hearts is ever-wandering. We are chasing after things that don’t satisfy.

Time to start eating what is good – not sipping on saltwater. Jesus tells us when we satisfy ourselves in Him, we won’t ever thirst after these other things (John 4:14). It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy them, but that they’re actually much more enjoyable when in their right place. Enjoy the blessings, the work, the shopping, the entertainment… but not above fellowship with Jesus or others. It’ll dry you up inside like saltwater.

We have to recognize our natural condition is to thirst after something, but that only one thing can fulfill it. Jesus promises to satisfy that condition. The more we try to do it ourselves, the worse it gets.

It’s probably going to be a crazy week for most of us, more than usual with the approach of Christmas. Take a break in your day to let Him be the water you need.

We must be careful of the ‘wells without water” and the “polluted wells” that instead of offering what satisfies, are bone dry or poisoned (2 Peter 2:17, Proverbs 25:26). We have one source, one well from which we draw. The rest is just drying us up inside.

We are all like the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus meets us and offers us something we can’t draw on our own. Jesus, give us that water, that we may not thirst not waste our time at empty or poisoned wells.

Are you starting to get a little excited for a new year? I know, we are knee deep in Christmas right now, but December goes by faster than any other month whether we want it to or not. Maybe I’m not supposed to admit this, but I always look forward to the post-Christmas cleaning of house, the blank slate feeling a new year brings, the plans on the horizon, and maybe some goals to challenge me.

Every New Year’s Eve, each member of our family receives a Bible verse for their year ahead. It’s not a magic verse, or the only verse to focus on by any means, just an encouraging word to nudge us forward into a new year with the reminder that Gods word is alive and working in us and to keep our eyes fixed on Him.

This morning I’m thinking on all the things that either pushed me forward into Jesus or kept me back this past year. Difficult things, trivial things, praiseworthy things… it can go either way. It’s good to look back with clear eyes at the seasons you’ve just come through.

Our culture puts a lot of phony pressure on the beginning of a new year, pressure to take that blank slate and make something of it. We go about things in our own power and feel like miserable failures by February. The thought occurred to me that Jesus doesn’t care about what our day planner says; every day we wake up is a new blank slate with Him.

We pray “give us this day our DAILY bread…” for a reason. Daily manna is the only way to be continually anchored and fed. We don’t ever skip a meal on Tuesday because we had a fantastic dinner Sunday night. It doesn’t sustain.

So if by week two of the new year we blow all our self-imposed goals, it doesn’t matter. Jesus wakes us up every morning and says “ok, how about today? Come and eat. Let’s do this.”

If I had to pick a word for the upcoming year, it might be “consistency”. I know that’s rather dull, but I’ve learned something this past year: we don’t need the latest edgy or flashy Christian-ish philosophies to keep us moving forward, we need to humbly present ourselves to God every morning for our daily bread.

Consistently.

Whether we are basking in the warm sunlight or tangled knee deep in the weeds, because both will come.

I want to soak in His words daily so that when the winds blow, I don’t blow over. The enemy wants to keep us stewing and fretting over the latest (fill in the blank) situation. He counts on us burying our noses in our work, our kids, our worthy causes, because he needs us to be inconsistent.

So I return again and again to 2 Corinthians 1:12 as a reminder that I at least desire to conduct my life in simplicity and godly sincerity. May I enjoy the good things of the world but not idolize any of them. May I value and love people, but never place my worth in their opinions.

A branch produces fruit because it stays consistently connected to its source. Disconnect it and you have a dried out stick.

We are commanded to bear fruit. Jesus came to give it to us in abundance. It requires not a great effort on our part or even much talent. Good fruit comes naturally as a result of staying connected. Daily. Consistently. When it’s boring and when it’s exciting, when it’s sunny and when it’s pouring rain.

It’s not a sprint. We don’t need little bursts of energy followed by a long absence. Jesus just wants us. He wants us every day in simplicity and sincerity.

Let’s ask for encouragement and clarity going into a new year, the Jesus kind, not the worlds kind. The kind that doesn’t rely on our own willpower but His power.

Happy early new year friends!

7-ways-to-beat-the-holiday-blues

A friend and I were talking about the inexplicable “blahs” we feel this time of year. No real reason for it, just a kind of nostalgic sadness not tied to any circumstance. December brings a lot of weird messages in our culture, conflicting ones to say the least. We are supposed to be making magical, lifelong memories while not falling into the trap of being too busy. We want to dazzle our kids and friends with the most thoughtful of gifts while not becoming overly materialistic. There’s a certain quality of life we are aiming for but culture screams at us through Black Friday ads and Christmas mailers to go for quantity because it will fill us up. We are pressured into acquiring all the things. What’s worse, we’ve now been conditioned to let the world know just how much awesomeness we’ve acquired for ourselves through happy little posts and updates. What. A. Racket.

Even in the best of circumstances, December just isn’t the holly-jolly memory making extravaganza it’s portrayed to be in the Christmas tree commercial. (You know the one, the whole extended family dressed to the nines, getting along perfectly as they admire their professionally decorated tree?) Of course there are beautiful, memorable times to be had, and we should embrace them and enjoy them. We are just trying so hard it seems and never really getting a hold of anything worthwhile.

We like accumulating and we positively thrive on quantity over quality. It’s totally normal now I’m told for teens to get 400 likes on a single Instagram post. I don’t think I’ve ever even met that many people in real life. As we fill up on worldly things, we hope it transfers over to a filling up of those spaces in our heart that sit empty. Where once we were satisfied sharing these moments with close family and friends, now we barely give them five minutes of our time.

Paul told believers to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Jesus called on us to deny our selfish ways, pick up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). We aren’t very skilled in the art of living sacrificially. Selfishly, yes. It’s every man for himself out there. We pine for something we can’t quite put our finger on. We ache for something no person or gift can fulfill. We get the ‘blahs’.

The past few years we’ve seen a huge rise in the popularity of advent and the idea that there’s a reason for this longing. Most of us grew up without this concept. (My grasp of advent consisted of popping open a little door for a piece of chocolate each night until Christmas.) We should actually feel a bit out of sorts this time of year. Instead of trying to numb it with useless junk, Jesus calls us to come sit awhile with Him and learn how He’s the only one who can fill that void. He came to fill the void.

I’m all for it, I’m all for learning to wait. I want to know that it’s ok to feel inexplicably ‘blah’ this time of year. I want my kids to understand it’s not all about them. It’s not about fulfilling every material desire only to be led astray by a new one.

A mom told me last week that every single December her left eye twitches and her neck aches like crazy for no apparent reason. Her doctor told her it’s simply from stress. We all can relate. If it isn’t the logistics of getting the house ready it’s the strained relationships inside the house. If it isn’t the fear of the ‘what if’s’ it’s the regret of the ‘what was’. We hold our breath and let out long exasperated sighs. Honestly, I don’t know a single person who isn’t a bit relieved when it’s all over.

Nobody wants a twitchy eye all December. Nobody wants anxiety over the family get-together or the ugly sweater party to drive them to the brink. We all have our stuff, and that old snake that slithered into Eve’s head in the garden is all too happy to insert himself right into our December dreams and make everything a tangled mess.

Living sacrifices. Humble servants. We aren’t robots people, we don’t automatically default to “joyful” when the calendar flips to December. Jesus gives that though. He takes away our weird, sad, nonsensical feelings about this time of year and gives us joy unspeakable that is rooted in Him alone. So go make some memories, enjoy the season, embrace traditions, and know it’s ok to sometimes have a case of the blahs.

 

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Happy post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas season! It’s full speed ahead from here on out people, so hold on to your Santa hats. I’ve lost count of how many “simplify the season” Advent reading plans or books I’ve seen this week. It seems like every year the stores come out with more “stuff” to help us simplify. It’s kind of ironic.

I thought I’d share a little excerpt from an amazing book I’ve been reading by David and Jason Benham called Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon. The kids and I have taken our time in this book, we’ve been reading bits and pieces since the summer, and I find I keep returning again and again to it as we navigate our way upstream in a world that wants to carry us downstream with the masses. If you’ve never studied Daniel in-depth, this is a great place to start. The parallels between his life in Babylon and our current culture of crazy are amazing. I’m fascinated by the ability he had to know and hold on to his identity in a world turned upside-down. As we plunge head first into the season of gifting and buying and just general ‘wanting’, I thought I’d share this:

“Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King. Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree. Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness to God didn’t have a price. He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the greatness of God’s kingdom. They come in any form of fame, fortune, or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag. His services weren’t for sale. No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission. He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage; the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

How are you ‘getting along with the world?’ Some of us are in deep. Most of us could probably stand to take a step back and think about it. Sometimes we need to tell the world, “keep your gifts.” This is the time of year where we have all the ‘stuff’ on our minds. We need to buy, we want to receive, the circle of ‘stuff’ is in full swing. In yesterdays mail, I received no less than ten shiny catalogues full of tempting things promising me nothing short of Christmas bliss if I would just place my order. All those things are great – until they aren’t. I think we’ve all been there when those scales tip in the other direction. The mall one week before Christmas. The credit card we should never have maxed out. The comparisons we make when someone else has what we want.

The thing I love about Daniel and his friends is that they were able to live and actually thrive in a world that was hostile to them at every turn. They never compromised with Babylon. They never idolized their gifts. There was a stubbornness about them that we would do well to have today – not in a hardness of heart/unkind way, but in a full surrender to what God wants over what the world says we need.

In this season of fancy packaging and gifts galore, lets take some time to evaluate just what we are seeking after. Contrary to popular belief, none of us really need the gifts from the mall as much as we need the security Jesus brings us. It’s almost cliche and that’s a sad thing, but can we please reel it in a bit starting in our own homes? No amount of shiny things, beauty treatments or perfectly decorated cookies is going to keep you sane or happy this season. The empty promises of the catalogues are just that. There are good gifts to be had and there are things we need to take a pass on.

Help us Jesus to value what is true and lasting over what compromises our heart and leaves us grasping for more.

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“Much of Christianity is trying to make things fit logically that do not match what you are seeing in front of your face.”

Well now aint’ that the truth. This is a quote that could come from a pastor or a seeker, a well-seasoned Bible professor or a disillusioned young person. It’s actually a comment I read from a “former-Christian” now atheist mother who writes about her journey from faith to reason, both relative terms I think. The funny thing is, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what she says. Here are some of her thoughts in a nutshell:

  • 21st Century Christians are basically the worst. They don’t even read the Bible they so easily thump over everyones head.
  • These above mentioned Christians are hypocrites because their words never match their actions.
  • The world just sucks, trying to reconcile a loving God to this hot mess of a planet we live on is too hard.

I’m paraphrasing her thoughts, but that’s pretty much the heart of it. Trying to fit the pieces together is an impossible and daunting task. I have to say, I’m grateful I don’t have a mind that cares to go to great lengths to disprove the creator of the universe. Call me provincial, but it seems like a ton of work. I sat through my share of college courses on the subject and none of it really impressed me much. I’m not criticizing critical thinking or asking hard questions, I just think the answers are usually not as complicated as we make them.

I’m always intrigued by people who have “left the faith” so to speak, the ones who at least have been presented with truth, lived it for awhile and then decided it’s not for them. My belief is that if you experience the real thing, the real Jesus, you’d never depart from Him. He’s too good. The truth is, they’ve never truly “tasted” as the Psalmist puts it, that the Lord is good (34:8). They’ve tasted bitterness, hypocrisy and indifference from fellow ‘believers’ and their perfectly valid questions have gone unanswered for too long. So they depart.

The basics of Christianity involve some paradoxes – we must die to live, become the least to be the greatest, be poor to become rich. We don’t value or live by these commands because we’re intent on our own ways and our own understanding. In the eyes of the world, surrender and humility get you no place fast. We want to be free to “be ourselves”, but our freedom comes through obedience.

It’s far too complicated a subject to solve with cliché sayings, these are people’s hearts. Her wounds are not my own and her experiences are different than mine. You know what she’s right about? Jesus-followers don’t know the Bible very well. By allowing the wrong people to spoon-feed us junk sayings and ideas, we lose. Christian-ish clichés like “everything happens for a reason” and “God never gives us more than we can handle” don’t save people from falling off the cliff, they push them right off of it.

So yes, trying to square Jesus with this world and reconcile what we see in front of our faces with what the Bible says is going to cause us to pause. It should. The issue is that we don’t dig deeper.

To the Christian who is a little too comfortable with just the nice-sounding platitudes, please go deeper. The pressure’s off, Jesus is the one who changes hearts. He wants to use you though, and we have a duty to share the good news. Know how to love someone back from the brink with actual answers. Remind them that God isn’t up in heaven somewhere eating grapes and being indifferent to us. Tell them about the reality of the unseen world and how the enemy works overtime to convince us that what we see is what we get.

Some people are just dead set on disproving everything a Christian has to say.  There’s always a “yeah BUT…” question to follow any answer. A hard heart is a difficult thing to pierce. But to the disillusioned who are turned off by all these shenanigans carried out by so-called Jesus followers… please pick up His Word. Don’t equate human behavior with the truth of who Christ is. We are all works in progress.

A lot of our drama could be avoided if we understood what He says about who HE is and who WE are in Him. He wants us to love Him with our hearts AND minds (Luke 10:27) which means we don’t check our logic at the door, but we are open to what He says. In return, He promises to actually guard those same hearts and minds with His peace (Philippians 4:7). Well, well well. Now that is an excellent promise if I ever heard one. I give Him my heart and He guards it. I give Him my mind, and He keeps it in perfect peace.

No fluffy sayings. Real meat and potatoes stuff that you can chew on. Christians need it. Atheists need it. Everyone in between needs it. All for Jesus and Jesus for all.

 

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